There are two common freight services that you’ve probably heard of. They are full truckload (TL) shipping and less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping. What are the differences between the two and how do you know which one you’ll be needing to fill out a freight quote for? They may be similar on the surface, but there are more differences between the two than you may think. Learn the difference between full truckload vs less-than-truckload and how it could affect how you ship.
What Exactly Is Truckload and Less-Than-Truckload?
Truckload (TL) shipping and less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping are each pretty straightforward to define. If your shipment takes up the entire capacity of a tractor trailer or you want a dedicated truck just for your shipment, TL shipping is the way to go. If your shipment is too large for a parcel carrier but doesn’t need the entire capacity of one truck, LTL shipping is your preferred choice.
As a rule of thumb, LTL shipping is recommended for shipments weighing anywhere from 150 to 15,000 pounds. In TL shipping, most ideal for shipments weigh over 15,000 pounds or you have more than 10 pallets to ship at the same time.
Think of LTL shipping as a ride share for your freight. It will be on the truck with other people’s shipments, sharing space. Think of TL shipping as your heavy freight’s personal vehicle.
Pricing with Truckload and Less-Than-Truckload
The biggest difference between full truckload and less-than-truckload shipping is how the cost of shipping is determined for each service. The typical shipment characteristics come into play for both services, namely weight, location, and any additional shipping services. But TL and LTL still have major differences.
For LTL shipments, rates are regulated by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). They issue National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) freight class codes to simplify the pricing process for carriers and to ensure customers receive unbiased pricing. There are numerous factors that affect LTL freight rates.
Full truckload shipping doesn’t have an association regulating pricing standards. Rather, the market sets the price. Different industries use freight shipping services more during certain times of the year. This can affect supply and demand. This means that carriers may have issues filling their trucks, or they may have issues fulfilling shipping requests. This is called capacity, which is the level which carriers can or cannot fulfill shipments. Capacity will cause prices to fluctuate. The prices of fuel will come into play as well.
Benefits of Each
There are different benefits to TL and LTL. Here’s the breakdown:
Less-than-truckload shipping is ideal for small business operators because it’s:
- Cost-efficient - Only pay for the space you need.
- Streamline easier – You can consolidate multiple pieces of freight into one shipment which saves you time and money.
- Eco-friendly – LTL freight carriers easily fulfill optimal capacity levels, meaning more stuff is moving through transit with less resources being used and less carbon emissions being released.
Full truckload shipping has other benefits, such as:
- Quicker – Since your shipment has its own dedicated trailer, there’s generally less transit time.
- Negotiating – Rates are independent, meaning shippers can bargain for lower rates.
- Less risks – TL freight is handled less, meaning there’s less chance of lost or damaged shipments.
Both LTL and TL shipping have their perks. But deciding which one will work best for your business depends on your needs.
A third-party logistics company (3PL) like FreightCenter can help you decide which shipping service is right for you. We have a large network of LTL and TL freight carriers and we leverage these networks to deliver the most competitive rates to our customers. We can find the best rates, the right carrier and optimal lane solutions that fulfill all your shipping demands.